WITH JUST five weeks of rehearsal, a group of students and faculty joined together to create the spring Mainstage show, which ran March 8-16. This semester, the show was “Stupid F##king Bird” by Aaron Posner, loosely based on Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” The show is full of references to the 19th century Russian play, with fourth wall breaks and, as the title would suggest, it includes plenty of cussing. With only seven cast members, this show is smaller than most mainstage productions at Lewis & Clark, especially compared to the very large production of “Sweeney Todd” produced in the fall. There were only seven actors in “Stupid F##king Bird.”
Student designer Soren Peterson ’19 and Director and Associate Professor of Theatre and Department Chair Stephen Weeks began preparation for this show over a year ago. Scenic design for the mainstage is usually done by Michael Olich, Professor of Design in the Theatre department. However, this show’s stage design was Peterson’s thesis. Peterson was in charge of painting the set, along with Technical Director Matthew Robins and students from the Theatre Laboratory class, who built the set. Students from this class were also involved in the making of costumes and managing backstage during the show.
The backstage crew was led by Caroline Wilkes ’20 the Stage Manager. She spent most of her semester working on this show, and spoke about how satisfying it was to see something she worked so hard on come to fruition.
“It’s about 25 hours a week of just rehearsal, not including tech week which is 16 hours in just two days,” Wilkes said. “That also does not include the hours spent outside the physical theatre in meetings, emailing and scheduling. You could say it’s a lot.”
The Assistant Stage Manager, Mary Alice Perkins ’22, agreed with her. Most of the people involved in the show are also students, juggling the mainstage with a full course load. While “Stupid F##king Bird” seemed to take up much of their lives, they were pleased with what they have learned and accomplished.
It was not just the crew who had to put in the hours. Actors were at rehearsals Sunday through Thursday every week while also spending time outside the theatre learning lines, going to costume fittings and doing research on their characters.
Rocco Weyer ’22 played the part of Doyle Trigorin. Weyer agreed the production was very demanding of time.
“(On an) average week, I’d say (we work) upwards of 20 hours,” Weyer said. “And that’s on top of all the stuff we do outside of the theatre.”
Assistant Director Sam Gensler ’20 stepped in as an actor partway through the show. The original actor for the part of Sorn had to leave LC for personal reasons, and Gensler was able to take on the part in just two weeks.
“I did not intend to be a part of it in the way I was, but I’m happy with the way it turned out,” Gensler said.
All of the actors asserted that togetherness and mutual support were key ingredients to the show. With such a small team, the students were bound to get close.
“My favorite part of this process has been getting to know the cast, getting to really dive into the character,” Robbie Rodriguez ’21 said. “Just feeling like a unit in this group has been really nice, just getting to feel connected with everybody else.”
Even with the intensity of the time and work, many were happy to have been a part of such an exciting production. Every mainstage is more demanding than many of the other productions at LC, but the abundance of resources makes the sky the limit.
“The perks though are more access to experienced professors who have so much knowledge and experience doing shows, that you learn a ton just from watching them work,” Wilkes said.
This was a learning experience for everyone involved, and many of the students felt lucky to be a part of something like this.
“I am able to use my skills and education as an actor for the enjoyment of a crowd and the betterment of the department,” Weyer said.
Five weeks of intense work, dedication and the mainstage budget gave LC “Stupid F##king Bird,” a two and half hour show which in its wake has left many overworked theatre students sorrowful to have its production come to an end.